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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Kay Garrett is returning to Pittsburg thanks to her daughter

  • Kay Garrett, Paradise, Calif., thought that she’d never return to Pittsburg again, but she didn’t realize just how good her daughter, Shari Jackson, was at plotting and planning.

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  • Kay Garrett, Paradise, Calif., thought that she’d never return to Pittsburg again, but she didn’t realize just how good her daughter, Shari Jackson, was at plotting and planning.
    Jackson secretly planned a surprise birthday trip for her mother. The two flew into Joplin Friday evening, and will leave for home early this morning.
    “This trip was a complete surprise,” Garrett said.
    Jackson said it had been around 20 to 25 years since they had last been in Pittsburg.
    “The last time we came was the funeral when we buried the last of our elders,” she said.
    Her mother’s roots go deep into Pittsburg history.
    “My grandfather, Edward Lafayette, owned a movie theater downtown, and I believe this was in the days of silent movies,” Garrett said. “Aunt Maxine played piano there. She and Uncle Joe Leber, her husband, also ran a mom and pop store on the south end of town.”
    Garrett added that her great-aunt was Anna Fintel, for whom the Anna Fintel Excellence in Education Award is named. Born in 1895, Fintel taught in Capaldo and Franklin before coming to Pittsburg public schools in 1920. She taught math until mandatory retirement in 1960, then moved into the St. Mary’s-Colgan Schools system.
    During her exploration of Pittsburg, Garrett discovered that there have been quite a few changes in the town over the years.
    The daughter of  Charles and Phyllis Kaiser, she was born May 6, 1940, at a home on West Third Street. The house no longer exists.
    “They’ve built the new Law Enforcement Center there,” Garrett said. “One of the things that hurts me so much is that they’ve covered the beautiful brick streets with tar. I would skate over them, and the skates would go clickety-clack on the bricks.”
    Garrett said her family spent the early days of World War II in Pittsburg.
    “I remember that my Grandma Goldie kept a candle burning in the window until my uncle, Eddie Joe Lafayette, came home,” she said. “I remember they would put black crepe around the windows of homes where there had been a death, and how you would be terrified that they would come to your house to tell you that your serviceman had died.”
    Her father was deemed to be 4 F, unsuitable to be drafted, because he had suffered a broken hip. However, he went to California and got a job as a supervisor at a yard where ships were being built.
    “He came and got us and took us back to California with him when I was 4 or 5,” Garrett said. “I came back to Pittsburg as a teenager, attended Pittsburg High School and got my first job, at age 15, at Crowell’s. Then I returned to California when I was 17.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She married James Shelton and started her family. They were later divorced.
    “I went to school and became a nurse,” Garrett said. “At 24 I came back to Pittsburg and was a student at Pittsburg State University for about a year. I  had some great professors.”
    Her two small children were with her.
    “I remember standing in line to enroll at the university,” Garrett said. “I’d bring Shari in her long jammies and give her a book to look at while I stood in line. She was just the best baby.”
    Though she was very small, Jackson does have memories of Pittsburg, namely of fireflies and chiggers, horseflies and  June bugs.
    “We were glad to see that there were still some brick streets in Pittsburg, but we haven’t seen any fireflies,” Jackson said.
    She is now assistant director of nursing at Twin Oaks Rehab in Chico, Calif., while her brother, Greg Shelton, is a city councilman in Porterville, Calif.
    While attending college here Garrett worked as a cocktail waitress to support her children, first at the VFW Lounge and later at an establishment on West Fourth which she said was almost like a speakeasy. Crawford County was dry at the time, but alcohol was still served.
    “You looked out and if you recognized somebody, you could let them in,” Garrett said. “There was gambling in the back. I had a 7:30 a.m. ethics class, and it was hard to go there after seeing people break all those laws.”
    She later returned to California and married Bob Garrett.   Her mother also remarried later in life to Bernard “Bernie” Drenik, who operated the Friendly Tavern in Pittsburg with his brother, Leo Drenik.
    “The Dreniks were good, salt-of-the-earth people,” Garrett said. “Bernie was also a coin collector and would go to all the auctions around.”
    Sadly, her mother died in a fire at her home, 905 S. Broadway, on Jan. 12, 1990.
    “Bernie tried to get her out, but he couldn’t,” Garrett said.
    She plans on compiling all her memories and writing a life story, titled “When the Caterpillar Thought All Was Lost, She turned into a Butterfly.” Pictures taken during the trip to Pittsburg will go in the book.
    “It’s so good to see Pittsburg again,” Garrett said. “Seeing the Besse and Crowell’s just validates all those memories.”
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